The Changing Face of Watching Live Sports

Go back 30-40 years ago, and watching live sports events was a simple affair. You either attended the game or match, or you didn’t. Sure, the occasional live game of note would be screened on TV – the World Cup Final, Olympics, Grand National, etc. – but for the average sports fan, live attendance was, mostly, the only way to get your fix.


Things are dramatically different today, of course. TV companies pay billions for the rights to show sporting events exclusively every day of the week. You can watch streams of events on your laptop, tablet, or smartphone – sometimes, legally; mostly not. And, of course, technology is also playing its part on the pitch – in-stadium replays of key moments were unheard of even ten years ago, and technology is being used in tennis, cricket and football to help determine major decisions.
So, the big question for today is – how is watching live sport changing, and where is it all going to end up? Let’s take a look at some of the biggest changes in recent years first.

The Live Experience

Watching live sport is a different beast to what it was a couple of decades ago. First of all, the crowds are different – the Premier League being the prime example. High ticket prices mean that many of the game’s most passionate observers – the working class, for instance – just can’t afford to follow their team every week. Crowds are attracting more foreigners, too, and the sight of tourists from all over the world inside grounds is not uncommon.
The use of smartphones is also noticeable. Fans hold their mobiles aloft in an attempt to capture the best of the action – possibly to upload on YouTube after the game. And there is less focus on the match itself, with many fans either using their favorite betting app download to gamble ‘in play’ or getting a second opinion about their team’s performance on Twitter. It’s very different experience to that in the ‘80s and ‘90s, when fans were a lot more vociferous, focused, and loud.

TV, Streaming, & Watching From Home


Of course, there is big money in showing live sporting events on TV. The likes of Sky and BT Sport pay billions to screen live football, and it’s a costly expense for fans, too. Boxing is another big draw for the TV companies, and Pay-Per-View screenings can cost more than the price of a pair of cinema tickets. Even less popular sports such as rugby league are enjoying a massive influx of funding from the TV companies – as are darts, tennis, and golf.


However, because of the cost to the average consumer – you can spend well into four figures a year if you watch every major sporting event on TV – there is also illegal ways of watching. Streaming sports events is a big problem for the TV companies, and there is, seemingly, little they can do about it. Ultimately, though, if you are going to charge high fees, you can’t be too surprised when the average consumer decides to cheat on you.

A Possible Future?


So, where is all this going? More people are tuning into live sporting events than ever before, and while crowds are still good for the top draws in each sport, it’s a different story to those from the lower leagues or the amateur games. The trouble with sport on TV is that people decide to stay at home rather than go and watch it live. Not a problem, perhaps, if the likes of Sky are giving you millions each year. But for those that don’t get that extra income, it’s a struggle.


Perhaps lower gate fees would help. And assuming that TV companies are prepared to pump up their prices – and home viewers are happy to pay it – maybe that money could filter through, enabling clubs and teams of all persuasions to lower ticket prices and drive up attendance. There is a premium attached to watching live sport, of course, but as the TV companies start showing more events every year, the simple fact is that more will watch it from home. And unless the nation’s most popular sports want to continue pricing out loyal fans, the live experience will end up being a much more drab affair, even by today’s standards.


Technology is changing, too. TV companies have already embraced 3D sport, which can add an extra layer of excitement for home viewers. The word on the street is that media firms are looking into VR sporting experiences, too, which could even see viewers immersing themselves close up next to the players and performers they worship. That technology is some way off for the moment, of course – but expect more changes to the way we all watch live sport soon.

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